In my research, I have studied the way the immune system rebuilds itself after transplantation, and how different types of transplants can influence this “immune reconstitution.” I study who is at risk for infection and how we can reduce that risk.
I recently co-chaired a committee under the auspices of the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, which in 2009 re-wrote the international guidelines for the vaccination of patients following autologous and allogeneic transplants. I am also studying how best to vaccinate other patient groups with compromised immune systems — not just hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, but also the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to influenza and pneumococcal infection, as well as children who have completed cancer chemotherapy.
Giving normal childhood vaccines to prevent infectious diseases in children who have had hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a signal that they are getting ready to return to their “normal” lives. This is enormously satisfying for me.
I am also a member of the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network, the medical advisory board of the National Children’s Cancer Society, Inc., and the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigator Network (PALISI).
At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, we tailor the transplant to the individual. Most of the physicians on our team have more than 20 years of knowledge and experience treating patients with a multitude of diseases requiring different types of transplants. We do all we can to keep “raising the bar” to improve the outcomes of hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients.
As a parent and a physician, I understand how devastating it is to learn your child has cancer and how challenging the journey of cancer treatment can be. I keep this in mind with every child I treat.